About Me

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Atlanta, GA, United States
When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995 and have been music director at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation since 2011.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Branching Out: Musikgarten Workshop

I just finished an intense, weeklong Musikgarten workshop called "Music Makers: At the Keyboard." The purpose of the workshop was to provide us an overview and hands on instruction in how to use the curriculum.

To be honest, I wasn't enthusiastic going into this because I was still worn out from the UUMN Conference in San Diego the previous week. Fortunately, this workshop was in Atlanta, so not only was I in the same time zone, but I was able to crash at a friend's house only five minutes away. (I took over her oldest son's bed and spent the week sleeping on Transformer's sheets in a bed that was just a little too short for me.)

I sure am glad I attended. The workshop was excellent! I knew it was going to be a learning experience, but I had no idea I would learn so much or be so excited about it. Our instructor, Mary Louise Wilson, was excellent – easily one of the best teachers I've ever worked with. It also helps that Mary is one of the authors of the books.

In general, the "Music Makers: At the Keyboard" curriculum is about much more than playing the piano. The main focus is on the piano, of course, but the piano is a vehicle toward musicianship and not an end in itself. Children generally start this 3-year series at age 6 or 7. By the end of the curriculum, the children are able to play the piano competently, sight-read, sight-sing (in solfege), play musically, have an understanding of basic music theory, and even take musical dictation, which is something many college music majors dread.

The classes keep the kids (and teacher!) jumping, sometimes literally. In addition to the keyboard work, there is plenty of singing, moving, and drumming away from the piano. If you had been able to watch this workshop, you would have witnessed several adults sitting on the floor in a circle (some of us were pretty creaky), singing children's songs, dancing, drumming, galloping like horses, and in general acting a little silly, but with a clear purpose.

A few months ago, I was able to witness the end result of this piano curriculum as I watched an advanced class of Lynnette Suzanne's sight-read and sight-sing music. I can think of a few people I went to undergrad with who would have had problems with their music dictation. At the workshop, I was thrilled to witness the beginning of this process. As part of our teacher training, we observed Mary work with a group of children for four days. This was a typical group of kids. There were no "ringers." I was impressed that these kids were beginning to read and understand 8th note patterns on the fourth day.

I'm so glad I attended this workshop, and that I'm excited to be teaching a piano class at Tessitura starting August 12. Not only will this give me an opportunity to branch out into the world of early piano teaching, but I can use many of the same concepts to become a better guitar teacher.

The only drawback to this week is that I have a whole new repertoire of children's songs stuck in my head. It's hard to get back to sleep when you have "See the pony galloping, galloping down the country lane" rattling around in your brain.